9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Exercising in the Heat

Summer is the perfect time for outdoor activity; however you have to be mindful of Mother Nature's heat and humidity. You don't have to stay away from the outdoors just because of the extreme temperatures, but you do need to be smarter with your training.  Here are some questions to ask yourself to stay safe in the summer heat:

  • Are you acclimated to the increasing temperatures? Give your body plenty of time to acclimate when transitioning from extreme cold weather to hot and humid temperatures.  It can take several days to several weeks to get used to those rising temperatures.  Understanding how temperature can affect your performance decreases some of that frustration you may have with a subpar athletic performance.
  • What time of day are you exercising outside? Being cognizant about what time of day you exercise can really make a difference.  Exercise in the early morning or evening hours when the sun is down is the best time of day, as temperatures are typically cooler at those times.  Avoiding those peak sun hours can make or break your workout without causing harm to your body.
  • Are you staying hydrated? You don't want to wait until you are thirsty to hydrate.  Make sure you hydrate before, during, and after your workout.  Drink water or beverages with sodium and electrolytes to help retain those fluid levels.  
  • Weigh yourself right before and right after you exercise to measure how much you are losing during your outdoor exercise session. You can also check your hydration level by the color of your urine.  It should be clear or a light yellow color. If it is darker, you need to hydrate more.
  • What type of clothing are you wearing? Breathability and color of your athletic attire are important points to consider while exercising in hot temperatures. Make sure you are wearing light, breathable fabric that wicks away sweat and moisture.  The lighter the color of your clothing, the better to keep the heat away.
  • Are you planning your route? This is the perfect time to pick that path that is tree covered to get you out of the sun. Try also to pick a route that has water fountains along the way or bring water where you can stash it along the route.
  • What type of workout are you going to do? This is not the time to go for your personal best or drastically bump up your miles or time.  Slow down and enjoy the warm weather that will be gone in a few months.
  • Are you wearing sunscreen? The answer to this question should always be yes.  Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you head outdoors to allow it to enter your skin and begin to work.  Hitting the areas on your body that are not covered by clothing is always a must.
  • Are you using common sense? You always want to stop any type of activity if you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, or the chills.  This can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  This can be life threatening and seeking immediate medical attention is your number one option.  If these symptoms do occur then remove any extra clothing, start taking in extra fluids, get a wet wash cloth or into a cold tub to get your body temperature down.

You can exercise outside safely* and prevent any serious injury if you remember these tips and reminders.  If all else fails, stay inside and exercise outside another day.

*Always consult your physician prior to starting an exercise routine.

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Kristin Gustafson is a School of Health Sciences instructor at Rasmussen College. She has a master's degree in Exercise Science, Exercise Physiology and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and has worked in the fitness field for more than 10 years. Her experience includes teaching, working in wellness centers and cardiac rehabilitation facilities, teaching group fitness classes, being a personal trainer, and running coach.

Rasmussen College – School of Health Sciences offers degrees in Health Information Technology, Medical Assisting, Surgical Technology, and more.

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